If you have watch any television, scrolled through a social media feed or spent a few moments reading tweets, then you know that political ads, opinions, and half-truths have built to a fevered pitch, this first week in November. And depending on the ad, we are told we are facing Armageddon, the next great depression or a raging out of control pandemic. It is enough to make one crawl under the covers and hibernate.
Sitting in the woods, I hear the sound of fall through the voice of the trees. Trees talk in swooshes, crackles and this time of year in a rustle. One only has to hear this distinctive sound to know the seasons have truly changed. As Walt Whitman wrote, “Go and sit in a grove or woods, with one or more of those voiceless companions, and read the foregoing, and think.” So as I sit here listening to fall, I contemplate the trees.
Sitting in Miss Hoover’s seventh grade science class I often thought how magical science seemed. Secrets of how things worked and behaved or how adding one chemical to another changed the color, all of it seemed almost unbelievable. In fact, it was more than just a magic trick. All of it was the result of painstaking observations, questions, experiments and data, always data.
By Joy Clough, Cook County Master Naturalist, July 2020
We think we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste. But there are more: imagination, curiosity, memory, insight, play, and emotions that range from fear to surprise to delight. Engaging our outer and inner senses fosters our health, and nature is just waiting to help us become more alive.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir
What do you think of when you hear the word “community”? Do you picture the town or city where you live? Your neighborhood? A group of people? Did any of you include plants or animals in your picture?
The dictionary definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”. As someone who trained in community ecology, I look at community in a slightly different way.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but this year has made me tired of technology and noise. Zoom meetings, Skype chats, cluttered inboxes, social media, cars, trains, and sirens, it never seems to end. In fact, close your eyes right now and listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Are there cars going by? A train? How about air conditioning noises? Your kids playing (arguing over a toy)? Most of us are bombarded every day by a barrage of sounds, information and activities.
By Rose Moore, Master Naturalist
Usually, when the word “Honeysuckle” is mentioned among naturalists and gardeners, you get a look of pain. Yes, that word brings on an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion in me because I have to deal with the very invasive species of its kind on my property. Yet, in my garden, I grow a Honeysuckle!
“Why”? This just might be the single most recognized question asked by children everywhere. This simple word can open the door to a world of discovery for a child and annoy parents all at the same time. Behold the power of questions.
One of the books I treasure the most and has made a lasting impression on me is Rachel Carson’s Sense of Wonder. This short book (originally written as a magazine article) is chocked full of memorable quotes and inspiration. For all of us navigating this new “normal” it is a poignant reminder of the wonder that surrounds us every day if we just look. And for those with children in our lives, it is a gentle reminder of the power we have to provide them with the building blocks for a long-lasting sense of wonder, long after childhood is over.
“Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
By Rose Moore, Master Naturalist
It all started a month ago when I was working on a painting of Giant Sequoias after a trip I took recently to Yosemite National Park. In gathering information about these trees I discovered scientists believe the oldest specimen alive today is about 3,500 years old. Those that were logged in the past were recorded at over 5,000 years old. They are among the oldest living things on earth. Suddenly, my interest was sparked in finding out how old are the trees on my property.
Are you sketching in your journal? If not, maybe you should be. I know, you are thinking to yourself, “But I can’t draw.” Or “I can’t even do a stick figure.” Am I right? Whether you are good or bad at sketching is beside the point. The important part is the act of drawing, itself.
Drawing is good for you. It is exercise for the eyes, hands, and mind and it can be a form of visual thinking, an outlet for emotions, and a record of a moment in time.
By Rose Moore
Master Naturalist – January 2020
One of the greatest pleasures I have in my daily outdoor adventures is discovering new things.
Just because it is winter, there is no absence of wonders to be found.
Recently, on a mild, snow - less morning, I decided to veer off my usual trails and search for signs of life in other areas of the property.
January is often the coldest and snowiest month of the year here in the Midwest. And sometimes it really is too cold to go out in the elements. Yes, I know last month I encouraged you to get outside but that was December and this is January and it’s a whole new kind of cold. So how do you keep your nature journaling going during this long frigid month? It’s easy when you remember four simple words…”Look out the window.”
By Cindy Owsley
not really cold
not really warm
….. really dark
first October swim
I can’t see but
memory guides me
floating plants tickle
feet squish in mud
a fish flips
cabin lights a return
a dry towel
my pond is quiet
my pond is noisy
my pond is dark
Winter is my least favorite season. In fact, I would go as far as to say I really rather dislike it. The cold, bitter winds and snow are just not my thing. So you might think this month I would just say, “Stay inside. Don’t nature journal.” You would be mistaken. You see, while I dislike almost everything about winter, it has provided some of my best memories of nature. One of them, I share with you today.
What are a few of the exceptional moments in your life? If you are like most people, you might recount the birth of a child, a promotion or wedding. But what about a moment from yesterday? Probably not on your list, right?
The unfortunate reality is that we miss exceptional moments every day. We are so busy going from activity to activity we miss what is right there in front of us. Nature provides wonder every day if we just take the time to observe. And our nature journals can be the key to unlocking and remembering these moments we might otherwise miss.
How many of you, growing up, sat under a tree? Hid under a bush? When I was a young girl, with three, count them three younger sisters who annoyed me constantly, I would escape into the woods surrounding my home. Once there I would lean back against my favorite tree and simply sit and watch. Well at first, I might have grumbled about whatever sister most recently annoyed me but inevitably I would end up just sitting and watching. Little did I know then that what I was doing was visiting my “sit spot”.
The heat and humidity are now in full force but you want to continue using your journal (you did start one last month, didn't you?). August is a great time to get out and practice your observation skills. Just maybe not in the heat of the day. I am sure that many of us think that observing just entails going out and looking around. I know that is what I used to think. But there is more to observing nature than meets the eye. (Pun intended) This month try practicing your "intentional curiosity".
First, a quick definition of a nature journal. Similar to a personal diary, a nature journal is a place to record our observations and to reflect upon them, but unlike a diary, a nature journal is used specifically to record our observations of, and thoughts on, nature. But a funny thing may happen, you may also learn more about yourself in the process.
These journals contain notes on weather conditions, place, observations as well as sketches of what is observed and any reflections you wish to include. All you need is a blank journal and a pen or pencil to get started.